Sunday, January 31, 2010

Making Sense of the Census

Numbers 1-3

The descendants of Judah, their lineage, in their clans, by their ancestral houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and upward, everyone able to go to war: those enrolled of the tribe of Judah were seventy-four thousand six hundred. Numbers 1:26-27 NRSV

The year is 2010 and we are getting ready to take a census in America. It is good to know that we will be participating in an activity that goes back to Old Testament times. We must be aware that the original census had to do with military service - specifically with figuring out which tribe would be where during the march through the wilderness and hostel territory. Also, only able-bodied adult men were included in the count.

Now whole households are counted and the prize is for government money, grants and other forms of cash. We do also get a good picture of who we are in terms of race, economics and homestead. An interesting aside here is that it was due to a census taken in the middle of last century that I was able to determine my birth mother's household and whom to contact in the family. So, there are other benefits to the census.

Where does this fit into our everyday lives with God? I am somehow reminded of the scripture that says every hair on our heads is counted. I think God keeps an excellent record of who we are, what we have and from where we have come. God is probably most interested in where we go from here -- and whether we will take God's direction, or even just God, with us.

God, you have already taken the census of our lives. Now you wait for what we will do next. May we follow you with every step. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Cross, Not A Stone

Yearly Reading: Leviticus 24-27

One who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; the whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer. Aliens as well as citizens, when they blaspheme the Name shall be put to death. Leviticus 24:16 NRSV

Jewish law from Leviticus is clear that stoning was the way to put a blasphemer to death, whether an Israelite or a foreigner. Everyone would therefore participate in the death blows - Leviticus says "the whole congregation." No one would be the executioner. This would be death by committee. This story is also the one place in Leviticus that the law is laid down as it happens - the issue of blaspheming was not raised by God but by the situation of a man who actually curses God's name.

I have always been curious about the fact that Jesus was hung on a cross rather than stoned to death. Although it was the religious leadership that was against him on religious grounds - including blasphemy- they were able to make him sound like he had a terrorist agenda so that the Roman government hung Jesus on a cross. Obviously God had a plan. I think if Jesus had been stoned to death, his demise would have been either kept secret or caused a Jewish riot. Also, in bringing the Romans into the execution, God was able to bring the Gentiles into the Way.

God, we know you had a plan with Jesus' death - and resurrection-  just as you have a plan for our lives. Thank you for Jesus and his giving up of life for our lives. In His name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, January 29, 2010

Without Blemish

Yearly Reading: Leviticus 21-23

You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable in your behalf. Leviticus 22:20 NRSV

Let's talk a moment about parsonage and youth group furniture. As I happen to be familiar with both, I would like to say a few words. Don't give your cast-off furniture to your church's youth group nor to your pastor's home. I can't tell you how many churches I have been a part of where the sofas are nasty sagging monstrosities - in the youth room as well as the parsonage. But somehow, well-meaning folks in the church think giving what they don't want anymore to their church is a good thing.

Certainly finding a home other than the dump is a great act of stewardship. However, we must be careful that we aren't giving just cast-offs to God through the church.

Leviticus is clear when it comes to bringing an offering of an animal to the altar. It must be one without blemish. And too often our cast-offs have many blemishes - why else would we not want them in our own homes? If you don't want them in your home, why give them to God's? God wants your best - from your prayer life to your gifts.

God, while we are trying to be good stewards, remind us that you always want us to give you our best. Help us to remember that the church is one of the best places to give our best to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, January 28, 2010

No Tattoos?

Yearly Reading: Leviticus 17-20

You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tatoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:28 NRSV

Okay, I confess: I do not have any tattoos. I don't plan on having any, either. But that is simply a personal preference. I am not trying to follow the Bible in refraining from getting a tattoo.

However, on any trip to a beach or a pool, I find myself in the minority. Everyone from age 90 on down has at least one. Some folks even have more than one.

So why don't we get upset and refer to this scripture when we Christians see someone who has a tattoo? Why is this even in the Bible?

It has to do with common religious practices in non-Israelite society, specifically about mourning the dead. Leviticus is very clear about what is in and what is out in terms of the Israelites. The laws and rules are to keep God's people separate and holy. Because tattoos were used by other religions that did not worship God, specifically in honor of the dead, tattoos were taboo. Having a tattoo marked you as someone who did not believe in God.

Today, believers and nonbelievers have tattoos. How can we know if a person is not a believer in Christ just by looking at them? Is there anything we should avoid doing to our bodies if we follow Christ Jesus?

God, you ask us to be set apart from nonbelievers. We pray that this includes our outward appearance but we know you are truly interested in what is in our hearts. May our hearts be completely yours.  In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thank You, Jesus!

Yearly Reading: Leviticus 14-16

The Lord said to Moses: Tell your brother Aaron not to come just at any time into the sanctuary inside the curtain before the mercy seat that is upon the ark, or he will die; for I appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. Leviticus 16: 2 NRSV

What strikes me in this reading is the unavailability of God. I am so used to going to God all through the day with my prayers and questions. I take for granted that I can enter the sanctuary at any time however I may be dressed or even clean. There is nothing that prevents me from receiving God's mercy and grace.

All of this is thanks to Jesus Christ.

It isn't just the slaughtering of animals that Christ removed by dying on the cross. Christ also removed the barrier of the individual to communicating directly with God. There is no need for a priest, a sacrifice, special garments or a ritual cleansing. God is present to us in the everyday and can be approached by us just as we are.

Have you ever thought of how accessible God is to you? Have you really taken the advantage of being with God just as you are? Take some time this day to think about how approachable God is to you thanks to Christ Jesus.

God, thank you for the gift of approachability that Jesus gave to us in our relationship with You. Help us to be ever close to You. In Jesus' precious name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Holy Like God

Yearly Reading: Leviticus 11-13

For I am the Lord your God; sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming creature that moves on the earth. Leviticus 11:45 NRSV

Many Methodists are familiar with the words of their founder, John Wesley, who said that all of us Christians were called to "go on to perfection." Or, in Jesus' words, "be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5: 48).

In Leviticus, God gives a very clear reason for God's people to be perfect or holy. God wants them to be like set apart like God. "Be holy like me!" God instructs.

And the Jewish people took this to heart by following the rules God had given them to the letter. But in all this rule-following, they seemed to lose the intent of the laws: to be like God. Instead, the rules became their gods. It was not about being God-like but about checking off a to-do list.

We should be very careful here that we don't become righteous (after all, with Jesus, we stopped being like that, right?). However, we have come up with our own set of rules in chasing after the holy. We need to always set before us the example of Jesus: breaking Sabbath laws, speaking to the unspeakable, touching the untouchable with compassion, eating with sinners and allowing himself to be hung on a tree (an obvious curse to any good Jew). Who among us can claim to be more holy than him?

God, help us not to just keep a set of rules but to truly be holy like you. In the name of Jesus who set the holiest example we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Holy and the Common

Yearly Reading: Leviticus 8-10

"You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean...." Leviticus 10:10 NRSV

God is the God of order, not chaos. When God created the world, God separated the light and the dark, the night and the day, the earth and the water. God sets apart one thing from the other. That is God's way.

For the Israelites as well as Jews today, there are certain foods and bodily functions that are considered clean and unclean. With Jesus and the new Christians, many of those categories either were taken away or changed somewhat. In today's Western-dominated society, even those lines are blurred.

Yet, God is still the God of order. God still wants the holy separated from the common. God still calls the ordinary to be extraordinary. We must remember that God calls us to be holy or set apart. God wants us to be more than common.

This may be difficult for some of us to grasp. What does it mean to be holy in today's world? How can we be living in the world yet somehow different? What marks you as holy rather than common?

God, you call us to be holy rather than common. What does that mean for us in our daily lives, God? How can we be your holy people? Give us discernment and guidance in being your people each day! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Guilty of Sin

Yearly Reading: Leviticus 4-7

Thus the priest shall make atonement on your behalf for the sin that you have committed, and you shall be forgiven. Leviticus 4: 31b NRSV

What sins have you unintentionally committed in the last two or three days? Have you admitted these to God? Why or why not? Is there something preventing you from asking for forgiveness from God?

Let us spend sometime today asking for God's forgiveness with this prayer of confession:

God of mercy and forgiveness, I come to you with my whole heart. Where I have unknowingly sinned against you, reveal this to me so that I can ask for your pardon. Help me to give voice to places in my life where I know without a doubt I have sinned but have lacked the courage to admit this to you. Please place your conviction on my life so that I can see where I have let you down. Forgive me for all of these sins, not with the covering of blood on the altar but with the holy blood of Jesus. Wash me clean of all my iniquities; make me white as snow and right with you. Let the barriers of sin that separate us fall so that I can bask in your glory and mercy. I know you love me and that you forgive me for all those sins that I place before you. Thank you for your grace. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Priest as Butcher

Yearly Reading: Exodus 40- Leviticus 3

He shall tear it open by its wings without severing it. Then the priest shall turn it into smoke on the altar, on the wood that is on the fire; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of pleasing odor to the Lord. Leviticus 1:17 NRSV

Today's reading is pretty grisly.

I am struck anew by how much the Levitical priest had to be a butcher. No wonder those that had the stomachs to kill their relatives were chosen for the priesthood: this is not a calling for the faint of heart.

Blood, guts, knives and - in this passage - pure strength were necessary to offer pleasing and right sacrifices and odors to God. Specific animal parts were offered. Some had to be washed, some had to be burned and others were sent to the trash heap. Blood was carefully used as a means of atonement and cleansing.

Today's Christian priest or pastor knows nothing about slaughtering. Today's Christian is not bound to bring and animal for sacrifice to the altar. Thanks be to God that Jesus gave up his own body and his blood so that we can be made right with God without the animal sacrifices!

Thank you, Jesus, for your sacrifice that has replaced the need for butchering on an altar. May we live as your people redeemed by your blood! Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, January 22, 2010

Willing Hearts

Yearly Reading: Exodus 35-39

All the Israelite men and women whose hearts made them willing to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done, brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord. Exodus 35:29 NRSV

Is your heart willing to bring a gift to God?

This past week my heart has certainly felt guilty about giving gifts to help the Haitian people. And I can see how often I am guilted into giving, whether at church or for charities.

But that is not what God wants when you and I give.

God wants us to be willing to give. To be moved to give. To have a heart-felt reason to give.

This isn't about duty or guilt. This is about love.

When your heart is involved, it is something you love and care about. When your heart is involved, you give joyfully. When your heart is involved, God is also involved.

God, give us willing hearts to give. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, January 21, 2010

God's People

Yearly Reading: Exodus 31-34

"For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth." Exodus 33: 16 NRSV

Moses has a good point.

God has gotten mad because while Moses is given instructions and details of how the people are to behave, the people are at the foot of the mountain partying and worshipping and idol. God is threatens first to kill everyone, then backs off and just announces that God will no longer be with the people. I can really see how God was right to be extremely angry.

But Moses is also in the right in speaking with God. Moses is doing his best to get God to cool off and think with logic and compassion. Moses is reminding God that these people need God's presence so that they can truly be different from all other people.

How shall we be distinct from everyone else if you refuse to be with us? Moses asks.

Makes me wonder how, knowing that God is with me, I am distinct from everyone else. Can anyone tell that I have found favor in God's sight? Or am I just like everyone else?

What about you?

God, we know you are with us. But can other people see this as well? Help us, Lord, help us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Year Reading: Exodus 28-30

The sacred vestments of Aaron shall be passed on to his sons after him; they shall be anointed in them and ordained in them. Exodus 29:29 NRSV

Reading the whole of today's scripture, I am reminded how bloody a job it was to be a priest. Not only were the vestments very specific and not what I would consider attractive but they were going to get messy. Animals were going to be sacrificed on the altar.  Blood was shed on them and their clothes when they were ordained. They would be sacrificing in those same clothes. The priests were to do this themselves - they couldn't stand around and get a servant to do this for them. To complete the picture, those vestments were to be passed down to the next generation of priests. At that point, I suppose it didn't matter if they vestments actually looked good; they were simply set-apart or holy.

I am not sure how much priests or pastors today in the Christian church appear set apart or holy. There are some churches in which you can identify the minister by their clothes fairly quickly. But in others, it isn't until the sermon begins that the pastor is identified. Certainly none of them are required to make a bloody sacrifice: Jesus Christ did that once and for all.

What makes your priest or pastor set apart of holy? Do they wear special clothes or vestments in worship?

What makes you, a minister of all believers, set apart or holy?

God, you call all of us to be holy and set apart. You have given us your son, Christ Jesus, who has made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. Thank you for your Son and your calling on our lives. In His name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Yearly Reading: Exodus 25-27

"And have them make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them." Exodus 25: 8 NRSV

I love the idea of a sanctuary that moves with the people - a tent that can be taken down, packed up, transported, then set up again for worship. I love the idea that God wants to be among the people - not just on a high mountain where someone would have to make a long pilgrimage to worship God. Certainly, to have this type of worship setting you need very specific instructions on what everything is made of and where it is placed. God provides that because God wants to dwell among them.

God wants to dwell with you today.

Where in your life do you need to set up a sanctuary?

What instructions to you need to listen to from God in order for it to be a holy place?

What precious gifts do you need to contribute with a glad heart in order for this to happen?

God, we invite you in the midst of our lives! Come, dwell with us! In the name of Christ Jesus, Emmanuel. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, January 18, 2010

Are you compassionate?

*Yearly Reading: Exodus 20-24

"If you take your neighbor's cloak in pawn, you shall restore it before the sun goes down; for it may be your neighbor's only clothing to use as a cover; in what else shall that person sleep? And if your neighbor cries out to me, I will listen, for I am compassionate." Exodus 22: 26-27 NRSV

I admit that I have never been into a pawn shop. However, I see them as mainly traps for people who are in desperate need of easy cash; how often is the individual able to buy back their item? I tend to place them in the same class as the stores which cash pay checks and tax refunds. I see them as places where the poor are taken advantage of by unscrupulous persons.

In this passage, God is not saying "Thou shall have no pawn shops." But God is saying that to keep someone's belongings from them when that is all they have is doing ill to your neighbor. God hears the cry of those who have been taken advantage of and has mercy on them. God is compassionate.

God wants us to pay attention when we are doing everyday business transactions. We should be asking ourselves: Am I taking advantage of this other person? Does my business transactions affect someone who has no other options? Who is affected when I make a business decision? These are not easy questions to ask or to answer.

God is compassionate. And I think God wants us to be compassionate as well.

God, you are the God of compassion and mercy. You hear the cries of the poor and disadvantaged. Help us to be compassionate and merciful as well, asking ourselves the hard questions. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims
*Sorry this devotional is so late today!- Amelia

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Obeying Instructions

Yearly Reading: Exodus 16-19

"Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbath, there will be none." On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather and they found none. Exodus 16: 26-27 NRSV

I have often wondered about the inability of the people to not listen to God.  I also cringe when I see God's anger that the people don't listen. Can't God make them obey? Doesn't God know they won't listen?

Then I look at my own daily life as a parent. How many times every day do I give direction and my son doesn't listen? I will find that he has not done at least one thing I ask of him each day. Even those things he does every day are hard for him to remember. He is easily distracted. And my frustration anger is just as easily set off when he does not obey.

What is this compared to what God asks of God's own people? We think of ourselves as God's children and the Israelites are certainly no different. Yet, they don't all listen to God's instructions. Some of them go out on the Sabbath to gather food even though they have been told not to so. God is pretty frustrated with them, just like a parent.

Makes me wonder what instructions God has given me but I have refused to listen.

What has God instructed you to do or not do? Have you obeyed God?

God, you give us clear instructions but we often don't listen. Forgive us for our foolish deafness and disobedience. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Who is Like God?

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders? Exodus 15: 11 NRSV

Who is like God?

We sometimes treat stars from the latest reality show to talk show hosts as little gods: everything they say and do we follow with great interest. If they recommend a book, a diet, a way of life we are quickly caught up in the rush. What do they wear? We want it in our closet. What vehicle(s) do they drive? We get ourselves in deep debt to attain the same for our garage. We praise their every move.

We sometimes treat religious leaders as gods: instead of digging deeper into scripture for ourselves or asking for discernment we take these leaders at their word. They can do no wrong in our opinions and even when their activities become questionable, we conveniently look the other way. We would rather keep the status quo than rock the boat.

We often see ourselves as gods: our lives, families, money and possessions become the center of our universe. Our priorities have to do with our own desires and wants. God, worship, prayer, denial, discipline and compassion take backseats to what we want to accomplish.

Who is like you, O Lord? Who is as majestic in holiness? Who is as awesome in splendor? Who is doing wonders?

Not stars.

Not religious leaders.

Not ourselves.

God, you are the only One who is like you, majestic, awesome and wonderful. May we see this anew today. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, January 15, 2010

Power Corrupts

Yearly Reading: Exodus 7-11

But as for you and your officials, I know that you do not yet fear the Lord God. Exodus 9: 30 NRSV

Local, state, national and international leadership are all in the same boat with Pharaoh and his advisers: they do not fear God.

I think we can all agree that once someone has a position of power in government, they tend to believe they are greater than the rest of us. And it really doesn't matter what party they belong to! In fact, I would say that they tend to see themselves as gods. Power doesn't just corrupt - it completely changes the worldview of those who hold it.

This is just like Pharaoh and his officials. They have no fear of God. In fact, Egyptians believed that Pharaoh was a god. I suppose Pharaoh saw himself as superior to this Hebrew God whose people were Pharaoh's slaves. However, his magicians as well as many of the "regular" folk do seem to have come to at least have a healthy respect of this God of the Hebrews.

I think we need to constantly pray for all of our leaders: that they may have softened hearts and fear God. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Broken Spirit

Yearly Reading: Exodus 3-6

Moses told this to the Israelites; but they would not listen to Moses because of their broken spirit and their cruel slavery. Exodus 6: 9 NRSV

It won't matter how eloquent the preacher if the members of the congregation suffer from a broken spirit and cruel slavery. I can receive all power from above in these devotionals but if you are deep in depression and treated as less than dirt in your job, you won't be able to take in any of these words. If you are completely crushed and struggling to find work, it won't matter how inspired your best friend tries to be; you won't hear him.

Exhortation cannot break through when we are in a funk such as that.

Thank God that God continues to act, enable and be even when we are incapable of receiving and believing.

God, keep on carrying out your will in the world around us. We may be unable to react and receive right now, but we need you more than ever! In Jesus' holy name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A History of Violence

Yearly Reading: Genesis 49- Exodus 2

The priest of Midian had seven daughters. They came to draw water, and filled the groughs to water their father's flock. But some shepherds came and drove them away. Moses got up and came to their defense, and watered their flock. Exodus 2: 16-17 NRSV

Moses had a history of violence. He killed the Egyptian that was beating a Hebrew. He tried to break up a fight among his fellow Hebrews. His act of murder was well known - by Hebrews and by Pharoah. So, he is forced to flee.

Now Moses uses his fighting skills as a means for justice: the seven Midianite women have drawn water for their animals but the male shepherds have driven them away, no doubt to use that same water for their own flocks. Moses drives them away and waters the Midianite flocks.

Although violence can have incredibly negative consequences, in this instance God uses even the worst traits of a person for a good outcome. In coming to the defense of the women, Moses has found a home in which he will gain knowledge that will help him lead and govern his people.

God, we too have shortcomings and negative traits. Please help us to either overcome these or to use them for your glory and purposes. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Don't Quarrel Along the Way

Yearly Reading: Genesis 44-48

Then he sent his brothers on their way, and as they were leaving he said to them, "Do not quarrel along the way." Genesis 45: 24 NRSV

Today's reading for the year was rather lengthy and there were several themes: God's provision, reconciliation, and making amends for past wrongs to name a few. However, this is the verse that spoke to me today: Do not quarrel along the way.

My bible has a translation note that the word quarrel can also mean "be agitated." It is as if Joseph doesn't want his brothers to play the blame game or to be afraid of what Joseph is going to say to their father- perhaps even worry over what they are going to tell their father. They did sell their father's favorite son into slavery after all!

They must own up to what they have done but at the same time, they need to accept Joseph's (and God's) forgiveness.

Admitting you have done the wrong thing is hard enough. Accepting someone's forgiveness without fear or trepidation is even harder.

God, you want us to admit our faults and be reconciled with you and with others. Help us to do so without being agitated or quarreling. May we be graceful in accepting your grace. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, January 11, 2010

Remembering Our Faults

Yearly Reading: Genesis 40-43

Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, "I remember my faults today." Genesis 41:9 NRSV

Take a moment today to remember your faults. I don't mean your weaknesses but those things that you have done wrong in the past, even the distant past. Did you mean at the time to make up with God or others? Was there someone from whom you needed to beg forgiveness? Has the passage of time made you put your original good intentions aside? It is never to late to make amends!

The cupbearer had angered Pharaoh and was put in prison. Joseph was also in prison and was serving as a servant to the captain of the guard. When the cupbearer had a dream which God favorably interpreted through Joseph, Jospeh asked that he be remembered to Pharaoh. However, the cupbearer went back to serving Pharaoh and forgot about his promise for two whole years.

Now the cupbearer, on hearing of Pharaoh's own disturbing dreams, remembers Joseph and his own promise. The actions of the cupbearer, though late, actually fit nicely with God's plan.

Take time today to make amends. You may never know how your actions fit with God's plan.

God, help us to recall and admit our faults today. May we have the courage to do something about them. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Assuming the Worst

Yearly Reading: Genesis 36-39

They had the long robe with sleeves taken to their father, and they said, "This we have found; see now whether it is your son's robe or not." He recognized it and said, "It is my son's robe! A wild animal has devoured him; Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces." Genesis 37: 32-33 NRSV

Jacob immediately jumps to a false conclusion saving his other sons from telling a complete lie. They lie by saying that they just found the robe. All they ask is confirmation that the robe belongs to Joseph. It is their father who assumes he is dead.

We all know that the story will turn out fine in the end. In fact, we know that this was part of God's purpose all along. But the scripture reminds us not to assume the worst on face value.

I know I am very good at jumping to conclusions. I am an expert in assuming the worst - the worst of myself or of others. I assume my sermon was the worst I have ever preached. I assume someone is going to get mad or bent out of shape because of something I have done or failed to do. I assume nothing is going to go right.

Then, my assumptions are proven incorrect. After the service, several folks express to me what God revealed to them thanks to my message. No one is mad or bent out of shape; various folks happily step up and do their part. Things continue to go surprisingly right.

No matter what you are facing this day, I invite you to suspend assuming the worst. You never know what blessings God may really have in store for you!

God, we lift up this day to you. Help us to suspend judgment or assumptions. Let us wait for your blessing. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Seeing God's Face

Yearly Reading: Genesis 32-35

Jacob said, "No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God - since you have received me with such favor." Genesis 33:10 NRSV

God's face is the face of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Yet, how many times have we refused to give forgiveness or to be reconciled?

For Jacob, this meeting was something that he dreaded and he prepared for Esau's anger. Yet, it ended up as a blessing because Esau was happy to see him. We don't know if Esau was influenced by his family or by God. But he obviously had matured since his brother's trickery and departure. Instead of an army, he greats his brother by running, hugging, kissing and weeping.

All of Jacob's worries still are with him but he recognizes God's provision in making peace with his brother. 

God's face is the face of forgiveness and reconciliation. 

God, your face is available to us when we are willing to accept forgiveness and reconciliation with other people. Thank you. Amen.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Tithe

Yearly Reading: Genesis 28-31

"... And this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house; and all of that you gave me I will surely give one-tenth to you."  Genesis 28:22

Do you tithe? That is, do you give one-tenth of all you earn back to God?

I find that many people talk about tithing but I don't know for sure how many actually do tithe. My husband and I have tried to tithe over the years. We finally discovered that we were best off if we wrote the tithe check first before paying any other bills. Otherwise, the money would be spent on other things.

Some months it is a struggle. I always imagine what else I could do with the money or in what areas an increased cash flow would take away our financial worries.

I am always brought up short when I remember that everything we own belongs to God. All we have is a gift from God. Jacob promises to give his tithe if God will provide God's presence and guidance as well as food, clothing and a peaceful return home. God does that and much more.

Has God not done that for you?

God, we pledge to give one-tenth of all you give us this year back to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Help Us to See

Yearly reading: Genesis 24-27

He said, "Are you really my son Esau?" He answered, "I am." Genesis 27:24 NRSV

Isaac really doesn't believe this is Esau. First he asks who it is. Then he wonders aloud how he got the food to him so quickly. Then he wants to feel him to see if it is really Esau. He even admits to himself his confusion: this sounds like Jacob but feels like Esau. He again asks if this is Esau. Finally, when the food is brought to him, he smells him and decides this really is Esau.

Isaac is really and truly blind. He does not see physically. But he also is blind to the faults of his oldest son, Esau. This is the son who sold his birthright because he was hungry. This is the son who marries two local women who drive both his parents crazy.  And we know that he has a temper.

In the story of the blessing, his physical blindness is actually a good thing in the end.

Makes me wonder where in my life do I suffer from blindness. Am I blind when it comes to my family? My job? My neighborhood? My church?

In what areas of your life do you suffer from blindness?

God, it may be painful but help us to see. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

God Provides

Yearly Reading: Genesis 20-23

So Abraham called that place "The Lord will provide; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided." Genesis 22:14 NRSV

Abraham obeys God and carries through with the sacrifice of his son up until the very final moment when God stays his hand and provides the true sacrifice. During the trip to the mountain, he had told Isaac that God would provide the animal to be sacrificed. And, because Abraham was obedient, God did provide.

I am fully confident that God provides as God has provided again and again in my life. However, this story reminds me of the cost of such provision: full obedience.

Am I being truly obedient to what God is asking of me or am I more than willing to just do it my own way? In other words, do I see God's provision as a safety net that I have become dependent on without doing my own part?

How about you - do you see God providing in your own life? Are you being obedient?

Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Falling At God's Feet

Yearly Reading: Genesis 16-19

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous." Then Abram fell on his face; Genesis 17:1-3a NRSV

I am struck by the image of this ninety-nine year-old man falling straight down to the ground. He gave the only response possible to the God who called him to a covenant relationship. There was no bowing or genuflecting but straight-forward humility. Abram had absolute recognition of something greater than Abram. Abram succombed to the awesomeness of the deity. Abram was able to participate in complete worship of God.

I suppose many of us could imagine a time in our own lives where we have fallen on our face. But I doubt many of us could claim that it was at the feet of God. Embarrasment rather than absolute worship would probably be the image for most of us.

However, Abram falls at God's feet after God has appeared to him, told him who God was, instructed Abram to walk before God and be blameless or righteous and promised an agreement that would be applied to Abram and future generations - which God promises will be numerous. Abram doesn't just fall God's feet when God appears. Abram falls at God's feet when he hears of God's desire to be in a relationship with Abram.

I think we need to be willing to respond to God in such a wholehearted way. We need more falling at God's feet. After all, God desires a relationship with all of us.

God, we fall face down at your feet. We worship you, we honor you, and we bless your holy name. We recognize the holy relationship to which you call each of us. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, January 4, 2010

Keeping the Peace

Yearly Reading: Genesis 12-15

Then Abram said to Lot, "Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herders and my herders for we are kindred. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left."
Genesis 13:8-9 NRSV

Abram knows how to keep the peace.

Abram's staff and Lot's staff were not getting along. There were too many bodies in too little space.

But Abram is the elder, the uncle. He could have told Lot where to go or demanded some sort of agreement from him in order to preserve order. The land is really big and there is plenty of room for both of them. The two households could easily spread out. Abram had every right to tell Lot to move somewhere else or to move his own household to the choicest land.

Instead, Abram sees an opportunity to truly keep the peace. He does not choose the best of the land for himself. He lets Lot do the choosing. Rather than see only one possibility and selecting the best in a highly selfish manoeuver, Abram allows Lot to be part of the decision. He gives Lot free will. He lets Lot make the choice.

Lot, of course, chooses a prime piece of property. Abram abides with the decision. And it is Abram who ends up the winner in the entire deal. Abram's own peace-keeping style has far-reaching benefits.

How are your peace-keeping efforts? Are you willing to give someone else the right to choose and to abide by their decision?

God, you call us to be peace-keepers but it is a really hard thing to do! We would rather look out for ourselves and choose the best for us. You would rather we hand over the decisions to someone else and abide with the results. We cannot see the blessings you would give us if we do. Help us to be peace-keepers, Lord. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Just A Big Misunderstanding

Yearly reading: Genesis 9-11

And the Lord said, "Look, they are one people and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another's speech. Genesis 11: 6-7 NRSV

I used to think this was the Biblical explanation for the many spoken languages on earth. But this morning, I have come to realize this is about misunderstanding.

My husband and I speak the same language. However, it is rare for us to actually hear what the other is saying. One of our marriage-building exercises is to repeat what we hear the other person saying. Many times we can get it correct but only with a great deal of effort. In other words, it works when we do the exercise but not when we speak to one another on a daily basis.

I also speak the same language as my parents. But often I can sense that many times they just don't get what I am saying. It really isn't a matter of understanding per se but a matter of seeing the world in a similar way. I have spent time in a regular basis to try to explain myself to my mother; I have given up on my father - he is only going to see things from his own perspective.

Then there is my son. He is only eight but I can begin to see what he is going to be like as a teenager. He has already learned how to tune me out.

And this is just in my own family! Forget working together in order to accomplish the impossible. If we can't communicate with one another, how can we hope to communicate with others?

We shall all have to depend upon God to accomplish the impossible.

Perhaps that is the meaning of today's scripture.

God, with you nothing is impossible. We place ourselves in your hands. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Looking Like Your Parent

Reading for Bible in a year: Genesis 5-8

This is the list of the descendants of Adam. When God created humankind, he made them in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them "Humankind" when they were created. When Adam had lived one hundred thirty years, he became the father of a son in his likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. Genesis 5: 1-3 NRSV

As an adopted child, I have always been curious about what my blood parents must look like. In looking at my son, I am always intrigued with how much he looks like both of his own parents but especially when he looks just like me. Then, just yesterday, I found out that I look remarkably like my birth mother.

I find it interesting that Adam has a son "in his likeness, according to his image." To me that says that Seth looked just like Adam. After yesterday's discovery, I can really relate!

But what is even more intriguing is how the Bible says that God made all of humankind "in the likeness of God."

We are all made in God's image. This includes both males and females! Perhaps it is sometimes hard to see the resemblance. If we really try, I think we can see God in others as well in ourselves.

Looking like our parents is nice.

Looking like God is even better.

God, you created us in your own likeness. Sometimes we don't look like you and we ask for your forgiveness. Help us to live in such a way that we are without a doubt recognized as your children. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, January 1, 2010

Through the Bible in 2010

And God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons and for days and years. Genesis 1:14 NRSV

One year through the Bible reading: Genesis 1-4

Happy New Year!

This year in One Minute Devotional, I continue to offer a one minute devotional each day. I am also adding an additional component for anyone who is interested: reading through the Bible in 2010. This reading should take no more than 15 minutes to complete. This would greatly expand my one minute parameter but will be entirely optional. The daily Bible reading will be a verse or two from that day's reading. For your convenience, I will post the current month's daily readings in a sidebar.

Today's reading reminds us of God's creation of time. Certainly the first day of the New Year is when we often think about time. Many of us see this is a chance to begin anew by making resolutions and new plans. Hence my own goal of reading through the Bible while creating each day's devotional. However, I must admit that my thoughts are more of a selfish nature rather than highly spiritual. It is so much easier to write when I have planned ahead on what scripture I am focusing on!

But beyond my devotional plans, I also find myself focusing on dates and time. I am paying more attention to the dates on food and spices in the pantry and freezer. Have we really kept that bag of pasta in the freezer for an entire year? Is this maple syrup still good when the date reads May of 2008? I am looking at the entire year ahead rather than just the upcoming week. When can I plan a retreat? What will we focus on during Lent? Where will we go for our vacation this summer?

I find that God does not seem to enter my plans when it comes to dates and time. Why is that? Genesis 1:14 clearly attributes our concepts of time - days, seasons, years - to God. Genesis begins with God creating light and dark which became the first day of creation. Time, it seems, is something God-given. As I begin this new time of 2010, perhaps I should include God in my plans for how I will spend my time.

God, we ask that you bless this New Year. We see how you are creator of time and seasons and years and we give you the praise and the glory. May we all follow in your Way during 2010. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims